Changing a Generation

Brendan Woodage - Handsome Legend
Brendan Woodage – Public Relations for CyberSmarties

I’ve been growing up with social media since I was 13, and I’m 22 now. And it’s safe to say that I’m still learning. Up until I started working for CyberSmarties I had no experience with Twitter. I was comfortable with Facebook and wasn’t willing to change. So I can only imagine what it’s like for my elders, and the previous generation, to learn and fully understand these new forms of communication, it’s benefits, and it’s pitfalls.

Since I’ve been on social media, and since it’s creation, cyberbullying has existed. In 5th year this problem arose for me in a huge way. I was a bystander, but none the less, it had a huge impact on me. This incident wasn’t just a case of cyberbullying, this was a cyber-attack aimed at a group of my classmates. A few had students swapped each other’s accounts and passwords and posted and bullied these classmates of mine anonymously on Facebook through each other’s profiles. The abuse lasted weeks until one of the students brought it to the schools attention. Once notified, the school did everything within their power to remedy the situation and catch and punish the culprits. However, despite the school’s best efforts, it created a rift within the classroom, one that echoed through the remaining years of school.

And that’s my issue.
Cyberbullying and bullying in general, cannot be remedied by retrospective reaction. The school did everything in it’s power to help resolve the issue, but it’s aftermath lingered on for 2 years. And that leads to my point.

How can we ensure that this generation and the next, knows better?
How do we tackle this problem once and for all?
How do we eradicate cyberbullying?

My Answer,
Through Interactive Education,
and through Behavioural Change.

No more reading from a book, or an information page or getting a third party speaker saying “Cyber Bullying is bad! Don’t do it”. What is needed is a social network, designed specifically for kids, which allows them to have a social networking experience designed specifically for them.
A social network which is SAFE, and only has children of their own age group (realistically between the age of 7-12) on it. A social network that was built, with the whole purpose of educating the kids of whats right, and whats wrong to do whilst social networking, and for this social network to be integrated into the classroom, to be taught by teachers at the earliest level.

This is what attracted me to CyberSmarties. The fact that they think in a proactive way, to change behaviour and create a new standard way of thinking.

It is only through this approach of thinking differently and proactively empowering positive behavioural change can we eradicate this negative behaviour and put an end to cyber bullying. If we can mould the next generation into one that values respect and empathy online, not only can we decrease the instances of cyberbullying once, we can change a generation for the better.

The Internet is like a bike. For your kids to learn how to cycle, you wouldn’t give them a book. You’d give them stabilizers.

Why Teaching Cybersafety for a day won’t stop Cyberbullying

Diarmuid Hudner Picture: Adrian Butler
Diarmuid Hudner: CEO of CyberSmarties


Many parents reading this will not have grown up with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc. Social media was not part of our lives when we were in our teens and if you are around my age (a weather beaten 41!!) then mobile phones were not around much either except maybe for the early “brick” versions which needed a suitcase to carry. We were never taught how to use social media, it just happened and we didn’t realise how global a particular comment or photo could go in a matter of minutes. For many of us it was frightening, still is frightening and we treat it with nervous apprehension. For our kids however, this is a different story altogether. They HAVE grown up with it; this is their form of communication and it is part of their lives. Many of you will see your child sitting on the couch using not just one device like a mobile but using two or three devices all at the same time, having numerous separate conversations with different groups of people. This may seem like a different world to us but its their world and like every generation, parents won’t understand what their kids are doing or why they are doing it.

We all know the dangers of social media, we hear it every day on the radio with frightening stories of grooming, predators, impersonation and cyber-bullying. Often adults and not kids are the worst culprits….why? because they were never shown what is acceptable behaviour and there are no consequences to their actions. Children are going on social media at a younger and younger age and this age limit will only further decrease with time despite parents attempts to keep them sheltered from it. They are already using games with social media interaction which are classified as “child friendly”. Having worked in this sector now for four years and written four educational books which are used in schools at primary and secondary level, I know that the only way of changing the negative behaviour which currently exists online is by instigating a generational shift in behaviour. There is only one way to do this – teach your children how to behave online in schools on a safe network which not only positively conditions behaviour but in a practical sense teaches them manners for online use. Routine becomes habit and we all know how difficult it is to break a habit. If our kids are taught in a practical way from a young age i.e how to protect themselves and safeguard their identity, to be aware of how what they say could be taken up in a negative way by someone else, to report negative comments immediately, to treat others with respect then this way of behaving becomes the norm through repetition. Then this generation of online users will behave in a completely different way than the generation before because they know no other way than the way they have been taught and therein lies the difference.

That is why we built


It is a new way of thinking because it has to be as nothing anyone has tried before has worked. I’m not going to rabbit on about how great it is but all I will say is that it took two and a half years to get the behavioural technology right, it has been tested with fantastic results and it works. If you are a parent who is afraid of what your child in primary school is going to do when they go on social media, don’t bury your head in the sand and hope the problems disappears – prepare them for what lies ahead by getting your school to use Having someone come to your school to teach parents, teachers and kids about cybersafety has of course its merits in raising awareness and I fully endorse it but you won’t learn much in one day. Like any subject, it is the act of repetition which reinforces learning and habit and you cannot learn about computers out of a book. You will only learn computers on a computer, you will only learn online behaviour on an online educational behavioural platform. In simple terms, this is why you have a theory test and a practical test before you pass your driving test. The same applies to online behaviour and safety….you must gain your experience in a safe educational practical environment.